By Cameron Mattern
INDIANAPOLIS — A passionate crowd of Democrats made their way to the United Auto Workers building in Anderson Monday where they cheered on U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly as he announced his run for a second term.
“The American tradition is to make sure that, as a nation, we give a chance for everyone’s hopes and dreams to come true,” said Donnelly. “That everyone has the chance to fulfill their God-given potential. That’s why I’m running for re-election to the United States Senate.”
File photo of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly in August 2017 after announcing his run for reelection. Photo by Eddie Drews, TheStatehouseFile.com
During his speech, Donnelly stressed the importance of being the bridge between Indiana and Washington, D.C. Donnelly has heard from many Hoosiers that feel there is a disconnect between Indiana and the leaders in Washington.
“My job is to be your voice, to make sure Indiana’s voice is heard,” said Donnelly.
Donnelly touched on a variety of topics that he plans to campaign on over the next 15 months, including veterans’ mental health, jobs in Indiana and the opioid crisis.
Donnelly also highlighted some of the success he says he has had in the Senate.
He has introduced 25 bills and amendments that have been signed into law, including the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, which requires annual mental health assessments for all service members, including active, Guard, and Reserve components in the military. Previously, only members in the deployment cycle received consistent screenings.
Anderson was the second stop on Donnelly’s six-day “Hoosier Highways” RV tour that began Sunday in Indianapolis. Additional day-two stops included Muncie, Winchester, Hartford City and Fort Wayne. Donnelly intends to visit all 92 counties in the Hoosier state.
“Anderson is a microcosm for Joe for the state as a whole. This is a proud manufacturing town. It’s about Hoosier pride and that’s really tied to its common sense values. I think that coming to Anderson, listening to Hoosier’s here is really key for him,” said Will Baskin-Gerwitz, senior media strategist for the Indiana Democratic Party.
Indiana Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson and Anderson Mayor Tom Broderick also spoke at the rally.
As Donnelly was announcing his re-election run, one of his potential opponents, U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, issued a statement branding Donnelly as a liberal.
“Hoosiers beware: liberal Joe Donnelly isn’t who he says he is,” said Rokita campaign manager Bryan Reed in the statement. “After months of attempting to fool people, liberal Joe Donnelly officially kicked off his re-election/deception effort on an RV tour trying to cast himself as a moderate and a champion of regular Hoosiers. Of course, it’s a giant lie.”
Rokita faces a difficult and divisive challenge in next year’s Republican primary from fellow House member, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer.
Donnelly’s win in 2012 was a bit of a fluke, which is why most national political observers are saying he is one of the most vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election.
The former representative from the 2nd Congressional District was expected to face long-time Sen. Richard Lugar in the general election. But in a surprise upset, Lugar was defeated in the Republican primary by Richard Mourdock, then state treasurer, who ran a very conservative campaign.
Cameron Mattern is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.